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Crossing the Line

Anything resembling an actual “election” is still months away. But the circus is running in full (questionable) colors well in advance. There is one candidate who knows a circus – not as the bland ringleader, but as the craziest clown there is.

There’s no value in naming this particular clown because he thrives on hearing his name. That’s probably what this is really all about as narcissistic politics finally crawls up its own backside to die. He was recently dubbed “White ISIS” (Whisis) by the still-excellent Daily Show for his desperate willingness to promote the main goal of ISIS – conflict between the Muslim world and the West. So we’ll use that term.

But that’s less important than the reaction to the big show because somehow Whisis finally crossed the line. That is, there is a line. We found the line!

Matt & Trey of "South Park".  They know the line better than anyone.

Matt & Trey of “South Park”. They know the line better than anyone.

We live in a time when satire is too easy to be considered an art form. The most reliable sources of the news now include The Onion and the Daily Show, each outlet reporting something like news more blankly than the actual news while the jokes write themselves. Pure entertainment has to go further as a result, and no one knows this better than Matt Stone and Trey Parker of “South Park”.

They know exactly where the line of bad taste is because they routinely cross it – and in the process move it. Episodes of their show from just a few years ago often seem tame. Matt and Trey keep a frenzied pace where they crank the episodes out in real time as they chase the line of good taste like a cat going after a laser dot.

At some point, you have to wonder if there really is still a line.

Cartman as Hitler.  Did anyone ever think reality would catch up with this?

Cartman as Hitler. Did anyone ever think reality would catch up with this?

Satire has been killing the Developed world slowly because it has taken away our ability to see our crazy world as anything but funny. Everything, no matter how sad or tragic, is now fodder for a joke eventually. Tragedy plus time? Just wait until the downbeat, that’s long enough.

Into this environment stepped the ultimate entertainer turned politician, Whisis hisself. While famous as a “dealmaker” he’s really much more of a Khardashian at heart, making more money off of reality shows and merchandising than as the operator of, say, a taxpayer subsidized casino which he ran into bankruptcy. His net worth of about $4.1B is considerably less than what he’d have if he took his inheritance and simply put it into an S&P500 mutual fund.

In our satire saturated world people like him for being a “self-made man”.

It’s been far too easy to characterize Whisis as a Nazi for months now. Rounding up 7M Mexicans in boxcars was only the first sign. It was followed by a call to register Muslims and closely monitor mosques – a clear foray into fascist territory. But somehow that wasn’t quite enough.

This is as close to a picture of Whisis that I'll use.

This is as close to a picture of Whisis that I’ll use.

When Whisis called for a total ban on Muslims entering the US, however, something snapped. The Republican establishment has been lashing out consistently, desperate to reign in the clown that is stealing the show. That has emboldened the press which has dropped any pretense of objectivity and gone full-tilt. This is not America, they say – pretty much in unison.

The problem, however, is primarily a Republican one. An online poll (which is to say a poll of dubious value, caveat lector) by the Pew Foundation shows the proposed ban on all Muslims is very popular among Republicans with as many as 65% supporting it. In the general voting population only 35% do, which is to say it’s extremely unpopular outside of the party.

The clown has managed to find the most polarizing issue possible – and it will only increase his popularity in the only ring he’s currently performing in.

What is amazing about this, however, is not that a performer found the line and grabbed attention by dancing over it. Matt and Trey do it mo’betta on a weekly basis. What is absolutely astounding, if you think about it long enough, is that perhaps our world built for satire still has a moral compass after all. There is life beyond satire and performance. We have our limits.

The final straw? Whisis is frankly embarrassing everyone. We just look really stupid.

What happens next is anyone’s guess. Whisis will probably find a way to push the line further with clowish craft, polarizing politics into a world divided between what is his and what still belongs to reality. What that does to national security or, more importantly, national decency is still anyone’s guess.

Once the line is crossed, it always moves. That should scare us more than anything else.

12 thoughts on “Crossing the Line

    • The hard line, the cultural line, is probably different from yours. I find it fascinating that it is at excluding a whole religion from entering the country – I did not see that coming. But yes, there have been many lines crossed ahead of this. Perhaps it’s more of a “straw that broke the camel’s back” situation?

  1. The more extreme Muslim countries are almost by definition Fascist in nature. Your trying to apply that “name calling” to Trump is totally gratuitous. You’re saying that 35 % of the voters are Fascist??? I don’t think so. And who are you to say where the “line” is that a candidate should not cross. Yes, Trump is a clown, but the clowns at the Ringling Brothers circus were incredibly popular for a hundred years. Lighten up. It’s a long time until the election. Don’t waste your time throwing rocks at clowns.

    • I think I can say with confidence that 35% of all voters have definitely fascist leanings, yes. How they got to that point is another conversation, and one we should have, but I think we should be worried about it.
      And most Muslims do indeed live in nations best described as fascist, yes. A kind of national or islamic state terror oriented regime bent more on control than the welfare of the people. That has a lot to do with how we got where we are, for sure!

      As for this “line” that we seem to have crossed. It’s not my “line”, it’s one set by the media and by general culture. The reaction to this part of Trump’s message has been unlike all the previous things that I thought were pretty damned Nazi. I’m amazed by this, frankly. So this is the line, huh? Interesting.

      As for lightening up, there is a lot to be said for making fun of him more than wringing hands, I’ll grant you. Another lesson from “South Park”. And yes, there is still a loooong way to go before anyone votes. So we probably should never take this too seriously – the voters will take care of this at some point. I do trust them.

      But why this reaction now? I’m as much amazed as anything. I should have written this piece more with that tone in mind. Next time, I promise. 🙂

  2. You show that there needs to come a time when viewing the world through an ironic lens leads not to the human comedy, but to real human tragedy. When it comes to this clown, who pretends to be a business genius, when he’s really only a rich man’s son who flacked a phony brand, too many in our media pretended his “acumen” was real. Our country is in great danger because of the evil forces he has given license to.

    • Yes! Satire doesn’t invite us to join the world – it stands apart from it. It tells people that “the in-crowd is over here” on a bad day, and on a good day manages nothing better than “it’s all hopelessly screwed up, all ya can do is laugh!”
      I think we’re largely unprepared to deal with reality and the more we go down this rat hole the harder it will be to climb out to the harsh light of day.
      That doesn’t mean I don’t find “South Park” to be hilarious. But to me it’s more of a dessert than a good meal. I need more in my diet.

  3. Umm…well…I admit, won’t vote for who I think you have designated as Whisis in a thousand years – whether tortured to do so or not – 🙂

    But, I do understand his mass appeal – –

    Why? Cuz in the face of two steps, side steps, political correctedness, etc., many are just ready to follow anyone who frickin’ takes a stand and says, “S**t has gotta change… damnitt, here’s the truth of the matter…”

    Whether it’s really ‘true’ or not – – workable or not – cuz things have become divisive enough there are many who just yearn for anything other that what has been before –

    If you don’t believe me, take a gander at archives of Hitler’s early speeches during his rise to power in Germany – they reminded me of a pep talk from some well known Positive Thinking Gurus – (forgive me, but true, given my perspective – ) Swear to goodness, he talked about family, friends, love and loyalty – during his early years and the drove home the point, “we are our greatest strength – ”

    And folks were so poor, hungry and desparate, they didn’t have the luxury of looking any deeper than what they wanted to hear –

    Fear, patriotism, survival are strong, motivating factors – and those who know how to double – triple – quadruple – the blind mans bluff – well, they may win, in the end or not –
    I’m betting, they won’t, but, I could be wrong in my estimation of the true strength of human beings – AND –

    I’m ready to be wrong, hunker down and survive 4 years of an elected official I didn’t support, just like all the noisy folks who didn’t vote for our sitting president chose previously to do – am I naive? Am I weird?

    I don’t think so, I simply think that wide disparity in equality in status, income, finances, daily life has made it very easy for the loudest trumpet to to gain the most favor – I could be wrong – BUT – I’ve only had one person, in the past 3 months, refer to actual points’/facts to explain why they support the WHISIS you referred to – who, is, a 17 year old boy – who is thoughtful, a leader and kind soul, and is trying his best to navigate the lessons of his own home, while being exposed to the ‘possibilities’ presented during his time in mine –

    Seriously! Adults! a 17 year old man-child, not related to me by blood, has come up with a better argument for supporting his ‘chosen’ candidate than all you so called, ‘older-wiser’ folks have – so, may you go rest awhile and ponder upon that little tidbit of information – 🙂

    The beauty of the system our ForeFathers envisioned – “don’t like it? Vote em out – speak up at the top of your lungs against that which you feel is wrong – without fear of being executed for your views –

    On the other hand – maybe the majority of my countrymen wish to forget the basic principles our founding father’s strove to try to establish/protect – in all their imperfect ways –

    it’s come down to this, for me – and I’m willing to martyr myself over the premise,

    “Remember what we originally set out to achieve! Remember the challenges and obstacles, foreign and domestic, we’ve overcome and faced – Remember our greatest strength lies in our our ability to cling to the dream of un-obtainable ideals, even while dreaming they are doable, in real life –

    Sorry – couldn’t help my star-spangled self – 🙂

    • Wow. There’s a lot there, and thank you for it. We cannot discount the feelings of his followers. Our “leaders” have done a terrible job for a long time in one of the most essential features of leadership in a democratic-republic, which is to say making sure that the people are really with them.
      Let’s take the flip-side for a moment – Bernie Sanders. Someone has to tell the truth as they see it if we’re ever going to get anywhere! For many people, Trump is “the truth”. There are a LOT of problems we’ve allowed to fester. Someone has to do something!
      I always think back to the “Contract With America” in 1994 – I do believe that the turning point for Gingrich came not so much in winning conservatives but with the sliver of centrists – maybe 10% of the voting population – that figured, “They have a plan and no one else does, why not give them a shot?” There’s a cool logic in this, one supported in many ways by our deepest traditions. It’s practical. Why not?
      Well, there are these moral imperative “lines” if you want one reason why not. Where are they? What do they look like?
      Until this came up I wasn’t sure there were any lines anymore.
      Bounded chaos, bounded practicality, bounded patience. At some point it all comes down to understanding the boundaries. I’m a centrist by nature – I always come down the middle if there’s any possible way to do it. Balance and harmony, that’s me. America? Ha! We’re a dynamic nation that always strikes out into undiscovered country.
      But we still have lines. There are still limits. I’m just not the guy that will find them. Matt and Trey are, and that’s very cool. I like them a lot.

  4. I don’t think there is a “line”. Wait until next week you’ll see what I mean. Something more outrageous is just around the corner. The comparison with South Park is apt.

    • I fear that, but the reaction to this has been so heavy that I don’t think we will go any further for a while at least. But I offered “South Park” as an example because their “line” does indeed move a bit every year simply because they find it and dance on top of it, one foot just over the “line”.

  5. Trump is just crazy, there is nothing else to say. He actually believes the garbage he says & that’s proof enough.

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